Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Pros and Cons of Coconut Palm Sugar: Part 2

I never thought I'd have enough to say about a single sweetener that I'd have to break it into parts, but here we are on part 2!


Yesterday I discussed the nutritive value of coconut palm sugar.  What first seemed a very simple quest to find information and lay out the full load in front of you turned into a fruitless search for a single study cited by  just about every company that sells the stuff.  I'm still trying to locate it.

Wish me luck!

Today I want to talk about the glycemic index value of coconut palm sugar.

Note: I'm specifically referring to 100% coconut palm sugar in this post

The glycemic index (GI) of a food is a measure of how quickly the sugars within a food convert into glucose within human body.  Glycemic index is measured on a scale of 0 to 100.   A low GI is anything below 55.  A high GI value is anything above 70.  Low is good.  High is bad.

Right about now, I imagine you're thinking:
Great, Rebecca... now what the heck does that even mean???

Well, peanuts are a very low glycemic food, having a rating of about 13.  Once you eat peanuts, they don't really effect blood glucose levels.  The body happily accepts them, without putting up a fight.  Kind of like the reaction most people have when a butterfly lands on them.

Rice cakes, on the other hand, rank a whopping 87 on the glycemic index!  Rice cakes convert to glucose at a startlingly fast rate, spiking glucose, and causing everything to go haywire.  Kind of like if a rocket was headed straight for you.

Simple, right?

 The lower the glycemic index of a food, the better that food is for your body.  Butterflies do a lot less damage than rockets.

Coconut palm sugar is rated as a low glycemic food.  It has a GI score of 35.

In general.

I have to point that out, because the rating can change based on several factors: the season the sap was collected, the individual batch of coconut trees that were tapped, the specific brand of coconut palm sugar you've bought, etc.  The list goes on...

According to Nature's Blessings Inc., a company that produces coconut palm sugar (and also cites more than one source! Hooray!!!), it is predominantly composed of sucrose with a low level of fructose.

I find this interesting.  Why, you ask?

Well, sucrose is basically table sugar.  

Table sugar has an average glycemic index of 68!  There's a big difference there.

And fructose?  

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the first thing that comes to mind.  Fructose is actually the common sugar found within all fruits.  It's not as bad as it sounds.  Most fruits fall into the middle ground within the glycemic index scale.

On the other hand, HFCS, as its name implies, is very high on the GI scale.  The numbers in this regard seem to vary, with some sources giving numbers within the 70s, while others place it in the high 80s.  This, I believe, has to do with the concentration of fructose within any given variety of HFCS.

You can see why I find the GI of 35 so interesting!  

I'm prone to believe its GI rating would be considered high, given basic knowledge of where fructose and sucrose fall within the Glycemic index.  This number, however, is actually backed up by the Philippine Coconut Authority, through the Food and Nutrition Research Institute.

Yep.  I actually found a copy of the  GI study's abstract.


In moderation, therefore, coconut palm sugar is actually a much better choice of sweetener than table sugar.  Your body appreciates the low GI, and you appreciate the yummy sweetness - similar to brown sugar!

It's not something that would be considered a diabetic sweetener, since the calories and carbs per serving are the same as table sugar, so I won't recommend it for people struggling to keep their blood sugars in check.

Sorry guys... I want that miracle sweetener just as much as you do!

But for sugar-a-holics that are trying to slowly transform their lives, this may be a valid step toward accomplishing that.  

Not to mention the fact that it somehow causes you to feel more satiated after a cup of coffee than the table sugar sweetened equivalent.  Seriously - in the mornings that I've used it to sweeten my coffee, I've actually felt less of a need for a third cup (something I battle every morning).  

My body is truly fulfilled.  There's no heaviness, just contentment.  

While my nutritive value search did absolutely nothing to answer important questions I had about nutrition, My glycemic index search went quite well. 

It looks like I'm still standing on the middle ground in terms of the value of coconut sugar, right?

On Thursday I'll talk about the claims about environmental sustainability.  That debate is rather fascinating, and I'm enjoying the research involved in examining their arguments.

No comments:

Post a Comment